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File Management and Naming Protocol

This page was updated: August 22, 2009

Files | Aspects of File Systems | Types of File Systems | File Management Storage Devices | Folders and Files | Naming a File or Directory | Saving a Document

Objective: The most important idea that you can walk away from this lesson knowing, is that when naming files you do not use special characters when naming files. If you use special characters in your filenames then you may experience some errors going between operating systems (Mac, Windows, Unix, etc.,) or when send attachments.

The following reserved characters are not allowed in file/folder naming: ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) + = ~ ` < > : " / \ | ? *
Avoid using blanks/spaces in file names.


In modern computer systems, files always have names. Files are located in directories. A file's name within a directory must be unique. In other words, no two files in a directory may have the same name.

File StructureA file's name and the path to the file's directory uniquely identifies it among all other files in the computer system—no two files can have the same name and path. The appearance of the name depends on the type of computer system being used. Early computers permitted only a few letters or digits in the name of a file, but modern computers allow long names (some up to 255) containing almost any combination of unicode letters or unicode digits, making it easier to understand the purpose of a file at a glance. Some computer systems allow file names to contain spaces; others do not. Such characters such as / or \ are forbidden. Case-sensitivity of file names is determined by the file system. Unix file systems are usually case sensitive and allow user-level applications to create files whose names differ only in the case of characters. Microsoft Windows supports multiple file systems, each with different policies regarding case-sensitivity. The common FAT file system can have multiple files whose names differ only in case if the user uses a disk editor to edit the file names in the directory entries. User applications, however, will usually not allow the user to create multiple files with the same name but differing in case.

Most computers organize files into hierarchies using folders, directories, or catalogs. (The concept is the same irrespective of the terminology used.) Each folder can contain an arbitrary number of files, and it can also contain other folders. These other folders are referred to as sub-folders. Sub-folders can contain still more files and folders and so on, thus building a tree-like structure in which one “master folder” (or “root folder” — the name varies from one operating system to another) can contain any number of levels of other folders and files. Folders can be named just as files can (except for the root folder, which often does not have a name). The use of folders makes it easier to organize files in a logical way.

When a computer allows the use of folders, each file and folder has not only a name of its own, but also a path, which identifies the folder or folders in which a file or folder resides. In the path, some sort of special character—such as a slash—is used to separate the file and folder names. For example, in the illustration shown in this article, the path /Payroll/Salaries/Managers uniquely identifies a file called Managers in a folder called Salaries, which in turn is contained in a file called Payroll. The folder and file names are separated by slashes in this example; the topmost or root folder has no name, and so the path begins with a slash (if the root folder had a name, it would precede this first slash).

Many (but not all) computer systems use extensions in file names to help identify what they contain. On Windows computers, extensions consist of a dot or period at the end of a file name, followed by a few letters to identify the type of file. An extension of .txt identifies a text file; the .doc extension identifies any type of document or documentation, commonly in the Microsoft Word file format; and so on. Even when extensions are used in a computer system, the degree to which the computer system recognizes and heeds them can vary; in some systems, they are required, while in other systems, they are completely ignored if they are present.


Aspects of File Systems

The most familiar file systems make use of an underlying data storage device that offers access to an array of fixed-size blocks, sometimes called sectors, generally 512 bytes each. The file system software is responsible for organizing these sectors into files and directories, and keeping track of which sectors belong to which file and which are not being used.

However, file systems need not make use of a storage device at all. A file system can be used to organize and represent access to any data, whether it be stored or dynamically generated (eg., from a network connection).

Whether the file system has an underlying storage device or not, file systems typically have directories which associate file names with files, usually by connecting the file name to an index into a file allocation table of some sort, such as the FAT in an MS-DOS file system, or an node in a Unix-like file system. Directory structures may be flat, or allow hierarchies where directories may contain subdirectories. In some file systems, file names are structured, with special syntax for filename extensions and version numbers. In others, file names are simple strings, and per-file metadata is stored elsewhere.

The hierarchical file system was an early research interest of Dennis Ritchie of Unix fame; previous implementations were restricted to only a few levels, notably the IBM implementations, even of their early databases like IMS. After the success of Unix, Ritchie extended the file system concept to every object in his later operating system developments, such as Plan 9 and Inferno.

Traditional file systems offer facilities to create, move and delete both files and directories. They lack facilities to create additional links to a directory (hard links in Unix), rename parent links (".." in Unix-like OS), and create bidirectional links to files.

Traditional file systems also offer facilities to truncate, append to, create, move, delete and in-place modify files. They do not offer facilities to append to or truncate from the beginning of a file, let alone arbitrary insertion into or deletion from a file. The operations provided are highly asymmetric and lack the generality to be useful in unexpected contexts. For example, inter process pipes in Unix have to be implemented outside of the file system because the pipes concept does not offer truncation from the beginning of files.

Secure access to basic file system operations can be based on a scheme of access control lists or capabilities. Research has shown access control lists to be difficult to secure properly, which is why research operating systems tend to use capabilities. Commercial file systems still use access control lists. see: secure computing

Arbitrary attributes can be associated on advanced file systems, such as XFS, ext2/3, and HDF+, using extended file attributes. This feature is implemented in the kernels of Linux, FreeBSD and Mac OS X operating systems, and allows metadata to be associated with the file at the file system level. This, for example, could be the author of a document, the character encoding of a plain-text document, or a checksum.


Types of File Systems

File system types can be classified into disk file systems, network file systems and special purpose file systems.

Disk file systems
A disk file system is a file system designed for the storage of files on a data storage device, most commonly a disk drive, which might be directly or indirectly connected to the computer. Examples of disk file systems include FAT, NTFS, HFS and HFS+, ext2, ext3, ISO 9660, ODS-5, and UDF. Some disk file systems are journaling file systems or versioning file systems.

Database file systems
A new concept for file management is the concept of a database-based file system. Instead of, or in addition to, hierarchical structured management, files are identified by their characteristics, like type of file, topic, author, or similar metadata. Therefore a file search can be formulated in SQL or in natural speech. Examples include BFS and WinFS.

Transactional file systems
This is a special kind of file system in that it logs events or transactions to files. Each operation that you do may involve changes to a number of different files and disk structures. In many cases, these changes are related, meaning that it is important that they all be executed at the same time. Take for example a bank sending another bank some money electronically. The bank's computer will "send" the transfer instruction to the other bank and also update its own records to indicate the transfer has occurred. If for some reason the computer crashes before it has had a chance to update its own records, then on reset, there will be no record of the transfer but the bank will be missing some money. A transactional system can rebuild the actions by re-synchronizing the "transactions" on both ends to correct the failure. All transactions can be saved, as well, providing a complete record of what was done and where. This type of file system is designed and intended to be fault tolerant and necessarily, incurs a high degree of overhead.

Network file systems
A "network file system" is a file system that acts as a client for a remote file access protocol, providing access to files on a server. Examples of network file systems include clients for the NFS, SMB, AFP, and 9P protocols, and file-system-like clients for FTP and WebDAV.

Special purpose file systems
A special purpose file system is basically any file system that is not a disk file system or network file system. This includes systems where the files are arranged dynamically by software, intended for such purposes as communication between computer processes or temporary file space.

Special purpose file systems are most commonly used by file-centric operating systems such as Unix. Examples include the procfs (/proc) file system used by some Unix variants, which grants access to information about processes and other operating system features.

Deep space science exploration craft, like Voyager I & II used digital tape based special file systems. Most modern space exploration craft like Cassini-Huygens used Real-time operating system file systems or RTOS influenced file systems. The Mars Rovers are one such example of an RTOS file system, important in this case because they are implemented in flash memory.

File systems and operating systems
Most operating systems provide a file system, as a file system is an integral part of any modern operating system. Early microcomputer operating systems' only real task was file management — fact reflected in their names (see DOS and QDOS). Some early operating systems had a separate component for handling file systems which was called a disk operating system. On some microcomputers, the disk operating system was loaded separately from the rest of the operating system. On early operating systems, there was usually support for only one, native, unnamed file system; for example, CP/M supports only its own file system, which might be called "CP/M file system" if needed, but which didn't bear any official name at all.

Because of this, there needs to be an interface provided by the operating system software between the user and the file system. This interface can be textual (such as provided by a command line interface, such as the Unix shell, or OpenVMS DCL) or graphical (such as provided by a graphical user interface, such as file browsers). If graphical, the metaphor of the folder, containing documents, other files, and nested folders is often used (see also: directory and folder).


File Management


File Management is probably one of the most overlooked areas of the computer. Yet, good File Management is critical for maintaining, protecting, and securing data. The following tutorial is designed to acquaint you with basic procedures related to data storage and retrieval. Every time you create a document, the first thing you need to do is to save it.  But the question is:  Where?  If you need to continue working on that same document a week later, you will need to know how to retrieve it. Often, we have a hard time remembering where we store our data so let's begin by looking at some of the storage devices.

Computer storage, computer memory, and often casually memory refer to computer components, devices and recording media that retain data for some interval of time. Computer storage provides one of the core functions of the modern computer, that of information retention. It is one of the fundamental components of all modern computers, and coupled with a central processing unit (CPU), implements the basic Von Neumann computer model used since the 1940s.

In contemporary usage, memory usually refers to a form of solid state storage known as random access memory (RAM) and sometimes other forms of fast but temporary storage. Similarly, storage more commonly refers to mass storage - optical discs, forms of magnetic storage like hard disks, and other types of storage which are slower than RAM, but of a more permanent nature. These contemporary distinctions are helpful, because they are also fundamental to the architecture of computers in general. As well, they reflect an important and significant technical difference between memory and mass storage devices, which has been blurred by the historical usage of the terms "main storage" (and sometimes "primary storage") for random access memory, and "secondary storage" for mass storage devices. This is explained in the following sections, in which the traditional "storage" terms are used as sub-headings for convenience. (Wiki)






Folders and Files

A computer file is a piece of arbitrary information, or resources for storing information, that is available to a computer program and is usually based on some kind of durable storage. A file is durable in the sense that it remains available for programs to use after the current program has finished. Computer files can be considered as the modern counterpart of the files of printed documents that traditionally existed in offices and libraries, which are the source of the term.  Think of your disk drive as one big file cabinet.  You will stash your work in the file cabinet.  But you shouldn't just throw documents in without any organizational structure.  Your computer system can be regarded as a large house with several filing filing cabinets in it. Each of these cabinets represents a drive of some sort, and within each filing cabinet are file folders. Folders provide that organizational structure to a disk drive, just as they do in a file cabinet.  First, you will put labeled folders into your cabinet/drive.  Likewise, each folder will have a descriptive name.  When you view the contents of a disk drive, folders are normally listed in alphabetical order.

Inside the folder, you will put your documents or what are actually files.  In order to be able to find your documents later within an overstuffed folder, you will give each file a name.  On a PC, it is wise to use the following naming conventions for both folders and files: 

A file name is made up of two parts:  (1) the name of the document and (2) the file extension.  You may name a file anything you wish, but it is preferable to name a file something you are likely to remember later.

File names should be no longer than 8 characters whenever possible.  Although Windows (and Mac) allow longer file names, you may get in problems while transferring files to other computers if you use longer file names. Also, use only letters and numbers in your file names. Special characters like "-", "/", "&", or blank spaces must be avoided in the file name.

The second part of a file name is the extension.  In the file text.doc, the word text is the file name and the .doc is the extension.  A period always separates the two.  The extension identifies what kind of a document you have.  Some examples of file extensions are:

.txt : plain text
.doc : Microsoft Word Document
.htm or .html : Web document 
.gif , .jpg , .bmp : image
.ppt : PowerPoint Presentation
.pdf : Portable Document File

Here is a complete listing of different file extensions.

Never change the extension by simply renaming it. If the extension is changed manually, then the original file will be loaded as a file of the newly named extension. For example, if you change an extension from .jpg to .png then the program loading the newly named file will treat it as a .png instead of a .jpg. Also, if you leave an extension off (myfile.doc is now myfile) by deleting it, then some applications will not be able to run the application. All files must have an extension.

The following reserved characters are not allowed in file/folder naming: ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) + = ~ ` < > : " / \ | ? *
Avoid using blanks/spaces in file names.

Naming a File or Directory

All file systems follow the same general naming conventions: a base file name and an optional extension, separated by a period. However, each file system, such as NTFS and FAT, can have specific and differing rules about the formation of the individual components in a directory or file name. Character count limitations can also be different. Any Windows (Win32) application developer should be aware of these limitations and differences and know which file and path names are valid.

For example, the older MS-DOS FAT file system supports a maximum of 8 characters for the base file name and 3 characters for the extension, for a total of 12 characters including the dot separator. This is commonly known as an 8.3 file name. The Windows FAT and NTFS file systems are not limited to 8.3 file names, because they have long file name support.

Be aware that the term directory simply refers to a special type of file as far as the file system is concerned, therefore in certain contexts some reference material will use the general term file to encompass both concepts of directories and data files as such. Because of the higher level nature of this topic, it will use the term file to refer to actual data files only.

Some file systems, such as NTFS, support linked files and directories, which also follow file naming conventions and rules just as a regular file or directory would. For additional information, see Hard Links and Junctions and Reparse Points and File Operations.

The path to a specified file consists of one or more components, separated by special characters, with each component usually being a directory name or file name, with some notable exceptions discussed below. It is often critical to the system's interpretation of a path what the beginning of the path looks like and what special characters are used in which position within the path, including the last character. If a component of a path is a file name, it must be the last component.

Each component of a path will also be constrained by the maximum length specified for a particular file system. In general, these rules fall into two categories: short and long. Note that directory names are stored by the file system as a special type of file, but naming rules for files also apply to directory names. A path is simply the string representation of the hierarchy between all of the directories that exist for a particular file or directory name.

The following sections outline these file, path, and directory naming rules and ramifications in further detail.

The following reserved characters are not allowed in file naming: ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) + = ~ ` < > : " / \ | ? *

Basic Naming Conventions

The following fundamental rules enable applications to create and process valid names for files and directories, regardless of the file system:

Use a period to separate the base file name from the extension in the name of a directory or file.

Use a backslash (\) to separate the components of a path. The backslash divides the file name from the path to it, and one directory name from another directory name in a path.

Use a backslash as required as part of volume names, for example, the "C:\" in "C:\path\file" or the "\\server\share" in "\\server\share\path\file" for Universal Naming Convention (UNC) names. You cannot use a backslash in the actual file or directory name components because it separates the names into components.

Use almost any character in the current code page for a name, including Unicode characters and characters in the extended character set (128–255), except for the following:

The following reserved characters are not allowed in file naming: ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) + = ~ ` < > : " / \ | ? *

Characters whose integer representations are in the range from zero through 31 are not allowed.

Any other character that the target file system does not allow.

Use a period as a directory component in a path to represent the current directory, for example ".\tmp.txt".

Use two consecutive periods (..) as a directory component in a path to represent the parent of the current directory, for example "..\tmp.txt".

Do not use the following reserved device names for the name of a file:


Also avoid these names followed immediately by an extension; for example, NUL.txt is not recommended.

Do not assume case sensitivity. For example, consider the names OSCAR, Oscar, and oscar to be the same, even though some file systems (such as a POSIX-compliant file system) may consider them as different. Note that NTFS supports POSIX semantics for case sensitivity but this is not the default behavior. For additional information, see CreateFile.

Do not end a file or directory name with a trailing space or a period. Although the underlying file system may support such names, the operating system does not. However, it is acceptable to start a name with a period.

Maximum Path Length

In the Windows API (with some exceptions discussed in the following paragraphs), the maximum length for a path is MAX_PATH, which is defined as 260 characters. A local path is structured in the following order: drive letter, colon, backslash, components separated by backslashes, and a terminating null character. For example, the maximum path on drive D is "D:\<some 256 character path string><NUL>" where "<NUL>" represents the invisible terminating null character for the current system codepage. (The characters < > are used here for visual clarity and cannot be part of a valid path string.)

Note  File I/O functions in the Windows API convert "/" to "\" as part of converting the name to an NT-style name, except when using the "\\?\" prefix as detailed in the following sections.

The Windows API has many functions that also have Unicode versions to permit an extended-length path for a maximum total path length of 32,767 characters. This type of path is composed of components separated by backslashes, each up to the value returned in the lpMaximumComponentLength parameter of the GetVolumeInformation function. To specify an extended-length path, use the "\\?\" prefix. For example, "\\?\D:\<very long path>". (The characters < > are used here for visual clarity and cannot be part of a valid path string.)

Note  The maximum path of 32,767 characters is approximate, because the "\\?\" prefix may be expanded to a longer string by the system at run time, and this expansion applies to the total length.

The "\\?\" prefix can also be used with paths constructed according to the universal naming convention (UNC). To specify such a path using UNC, use the "\\?\UNC\" prefix. For example, "\\?\UNC\server\share", where "server" is the name of the machine and "share" is the name of the shared folder. These prefixes are not used as part of the path itself. They indicate that the path should be passed to the system with minimal modification, which means that you cannot use forward slashes to represent path separators, or a period to represent the current directory. Also, you cannot use the "\\?\" prefix with a relative path, therefore relative paths are limited to MAX_PATH characters as previously stated for paths not using the "\\?\" prefix.

When using an API to create a directory, the specified path cannot be so long that you cannot append an 8.3 file name (that is, the directory name cannot exceed MAX_PATH minus 12).

The shell and the file system have different requirements. It is possible to create a path with the Windows API that the shell user interface cannot handle.

Rule: Try to keep you file names to under 12-15 characters. Makes it easier for both man and machine.

Relative Paths

For functions that manipulate files, the file names can be relative to the current directory. A file name is relative to the current directory if it does not begin with one of the following:

A UNC name of any format.

A disk designator with a backslash, for example "C:\".

A backslash, for example, "\directory").

If the file name begins with a disk designator with a backslash, it is a fully qualified path (for example, "C:\tmp"). If a file name begins with only a disk designator but not the backslash after the colon, it is interpreted as a relative path to the current directory on the drive with the specified letter . Examples of this format are as follows:

"C:tmp.txt" refers to a file in the current directory on drive C.

"C:tempdir\tmp.txt" refers to a file in a subdirectory to the current directory on drive C.

A path is also said to be relative if it contains "double-dots"; that is, two periods together in one component of the path. This special specifier is used to denote the directory above the current directory, otherwise known as the "parent directory". Examples of this format are as follows:

"..\tmp.txt" specifies a file named tmp.txt located in the parent of the current directory.

"..\..\tmp.txt" specifies a file that is two directories above the current directory.

"..\tempdir\tmp.txt" specifies a file named tmp.txt located in a directory named tempdir that is a peer directory to the current directory.

Relative paths can combine both example types, for example "C:..\tmp.txt". This is useful because, although the system keeps track of the current drive along with the current directory of that drive, it also keeps track of the current directories of all of the different drive letters if your system has more than one.

As stated previously, you cannot use the "\\?\" prefix with a relative path because it is considered a form of UNC naming.

Short and Long File Names and Paths

Typically, Windows stores the long file names on disk as special directory entries, which can be disabled for performance reasons depending on the particular file system. When you create a long file name, Windows may also create a short MS-DOS (8.3) form of the name, called the 8.3 alias, and store it on disk. This can also be disabled for a specified volume. On many file systems, a short file name contains a tilde (~) character within each component when it is too long to comply with 8.3 naming rules, as previously discussed.

Note  Not all file systems follow this convention, and systems can be configured to disable 8.3 alias generation even if they normally support it. Therefore, do not make the assumption that the 8.3 alias already exists.

To request MS-DOS file names, long file names, or the full path of a file from the system, consider the following options:

To get an MS-DOS file name that has a long file name, use GetShortPathName.

To get the long file name that has a short name, use GetLongPathName.

To get the full path of a file, use GetFullPathName.

On current file systems, Windows stores the long file names on disk in Unicode, which means that the original long file name is always preserved. This is true even if a long file name contains extended characters and regardless of the code page that is active during a disk read or write operation. The case of the file name is preserved, even when the file system is not case-sensitive.

Files using long file names can be copied between NTFS file system partitions and Windows FAT file system partitions without losing any file name information. This may not be true for MS-DOS FAT and some types of CDFS (CD-ROM) file systems, depending on the actual file name. In this case, the short file name is substituted if possible.

Note: Above is a lot of information, but it is pretty easy to simplify things while creating great looking file names. However, when naming files when developing Web pages you have even more limitations placed upon you. Inserting a blank is completely legitimate in file names, but it gives the URL a messy look. For example, let's say we save a page as: My First Web Page.htm the page will be displayed as My%20First%20Web%20Page.htm in the URL address box of the browser. This is common in most browsers, but not all. A good rule of thumb is not to use any spaces in your address name. When working with Dreamweaver and Flash, you will run into major problems when you use: spaces, and '. Even though these are legitimate characters, Flash will bomb if you use either in a file or folder name. To avoid any potential problems or messy URLs then the following rules should be adhered to.

File and Folder Name Rules:

  1. Make the name descriptive so that you as a programmer or developer can easily recognize the content of the file/folder...this will also help anyone who is not familiar with the file gain a snapshot of the content. Compare these two filenames for a picture: 189873H.jpg or Sunset_in_Mexico.jpg. Which makes the most sense? Let's say we want to create a Web page that is going to be a Fireworks (FW) tutorial and the subject is "creating moving text." Some good file names would be: FW_Moving_Text.htm, FW-Moving-Text.htm, Moving_Text.htm. Note the insertion of FW. By inserting the FW then all of the Fireworks tutorials will be grouped together...no big deal if you have a site of 20 pages, but with a site of a few hundred pages then these would be great organizational assets.
  2. Use only characters (both lower and upper case), numbers, underscores _ and hyphens -. Nothing more. For example, Recording_Links.htm, and RecordingLinks.htm are both descriptive filenames. If you notice, I use underscores a lot. Here is a legitimate filename: myfavoriteswimmingholes.htm, but it is difficult to read and comprehend the content. The brain sees things in groups and in this example there is no grouping. Here is another legitimate filename: MyFavoriteSwimmingHole.htm Yes, there is a sense of grouping, but for some it may still be difficult to read and comprehend. The filename: My_Favorite_Swimming_Hole.htm jumps out at you and is very easy to read. So, hyphen or underscore? I have found that underscores are the cleaner of the two. You decide: My_Favorite_Swimming_Hole.htm or My-Favorite-Swimming-Hole.htm You make the decision, and use the format that you prefer.
  3. Use one specific format for you file naming convention for every unique project. The last thing you want to do is add a sense of inconsistency. For example, creating filenames with hyphens, underscores, or no spacing at all.
  4. Do not be too descriptive with your file names. Try to make them as short, yet as descriptive as possible. If you make very long file names then the chances of creating a typing error increases, but more importantly you may run into problems moving the files between different operating systems. I have had many long filenames created in Windows blow up on me when I moved them to a Mac OS computer. This may not always be the case, but better to be safe ...besides, where is the fun in typing long filenames?

Saving a Document 

There is no great mystery about saving documents.  A document will go wherever you put it.  However, if you don't pay attention, it's likely to end up where you least expect it.  A few tips about saving documents: 

  1. What drive is it on?  You can save it anywhere--the floppy disk, the hard drive inside the computer, a zip/jazz drive (external), or on a remote location on a server.  You have to tell the computer where you want it.
  2. What folder is it in?  Once you've chosen the drive, you must then select the folder.  You can put it in any folder you want. 
  3. What is the of the name of the file?  You can call it anything you like, but take in account some filename conventions. Play it safe, and use only 8-character file names.  For consistency, use all lowercase letters in filenames.
  4. What is the extension?  If you have created a MS Word document, be sure the extension is .doc. If it's a web page, the extension should be .htm or .html (it also could be .asp, .php, etc.)
  5. When you click "Save As" notice how the filename is highlighted, in computer lingo this is called "focus." When a filename such as "Untitled Document" is given focus all you have to do is start typing the new file name. Do not click on the file name and scroll across it with the mouse and rename it. If you do this in Dreamweaver then you may loose the extension. If you loose an extension, then the OS does not know what type of file it is. Like wise, if you want to change a file type you cannot change the extension manually. If you do, then your file will not load properly. To change the file type you must go to Save As and choose the correct file type. This can be done by going to the drop down box just below the filename text box.
  6. The very first thing you should do when you create a new file/document is save it and give it a good filename.

Once a file or folder has been saved, it will have a specific address on the computer, just as you have one for your home.  This "address," or where a file lives, is called a path.  Here's an example(Win):  C:\Windows\i386\bin\wet.dll

This path says the following:  This file is stored on the "C" drive (c:\), in the folder called "cter", in the "edpsy387" folder. The file is named "paper3.doc" and it is an MS Word document because it has a .doc extension on it.  Notice that each level of the hierarchy is separated by a backslash "\".  The highest level is the drive; the lowest level is the file name.  

Moving and Copying a File
There will be times when you need to change the location of a file.  You may want to copy it from one folder to another on a drive, or you may want to copy it from the hard drive to a diskette (or vice versa).  Or you may simply want to move it to another location without making another copy of it.  Moving and copying files from one place to another is relatively simple.  However, a few warnings are in order: 

If you are copying from the hard drive to a diskette, watch out for the size of your files.  Hard drives are large capacity storage areas.  Diskettes will hold only 1.4 MB of data.  For text files, this is usually not a problem, since they tend to be rather small.  But, once you get into multimedia files (images, sound or video), you may have a serious problem since these files tend to be enormous (especially sound and video).  Check the size of the file before you attempt to copy it onto a disk if you suspect it might be quite large.  This is also true of PowerPoint presentation files. 

If your file is larger than 1.4 MB, you can either zip the file (compress it) or save it onto a zip drive. Also, you may burn a CD.


Moving vs. Copying
Moving a file means just that:  you have one copy of a file that you remove from one location and place in another.  You start out with one copy of a file and you end up with one copy of the file in a different place.  When you drag and drop a file from one folder to another folder on the same drive, you are moving it.  When you drag and drop a file from one drive to another, you are copying it.  Copying a file means that you make a second copy of the same file and store it in a different location.  You start out with one copy of a file and end up with two, each in a different location. 

Retrieving a File  
Retrieving a file is simple, once you know how to save a file.  It's the same process in reverse.  Let's assume that yesterday you saved a file named "test.doc".  Today, you want to go back and add to it.  So instead of creating a new file you will OPEN an existing file. 

When we try to open a file, a dialogue box will open up.  This box is asking us what file we want to work on. We have to choose the file.  In order to choose it, we will have to follow the same steps we followed when we saved it: 

What drive is the file on?
What folder is it in?
What is the name of the file?

Finding a File  
Retrieving a document is quite simple IF you remember where you put it in the first place.  But you will need some method for retrieving files when you can't remember where you put it. Several methods are possible: 

Win: to click on START then FIND (or SEARCH) then FILES OR FOLDERS  

Mac: Go to the Spotlight at the top right of corner of your desktop.

Spotlight takes searches to a whole new level. Pity the poor Windows user who has never had the opportunity to use it.

The following reserved characters are not allowed in file/folder naming: ! @ # $ % ^ & * ( ) + = ~ ` < > : " / \ | ? *
Avoid using blanks/spaces in file names.


  1. What is the name of your home directory on your iMac? Name 5 folders already within it. Make a new folder called Fireworks within your home directory.
  2. Write 5 bogus files with descriptive file names, and valid extensions.
  3. What will happen if you change the extension name of a file. For example, you rename My_Beachball.jpg to My_Beachball.gif
  4. List 10 hot keys and their purpose that you think you should know. For example: cmd-P will print a page.
  5. Open 2 or 3 applications and look at the main menu at the top of the screen. Compare this with the menu found when you click on your desktop. What main commands do all of the menus have in common? Why do you think software engineers decided to put the "Save" command, among many, in the same place on all applications? How can this help you learn new applications?Finally, what is the difference between an "application" and "a utility?"


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